Sunday, August 9, 2009
Shortly after my last post in May, my father was taken to the hospital with pneumonia. Within a few days, he was moved to intensive care... and less than two weeks later, he passed away It's been two months now, but it still seems surreal to me. My father lived with heart disease for 26 years. He had several heart attacks, a few other scares, and many surgical procedures throughout the years. We just didn't expect it to end that way -- with pneumonia (aggravated by his congestive heart failure).
I was lucky to have him for a father. I hear a lot of horror stories from other folks, especially women, about the terrible relationships they had with their fathers. That was never the case for me. Sure, we had some fights and disagreements when I was growing up... everyone does! But I always knew that he loved me, even when I did crazy things. Even when I disappointed him. Even when he didn't understand what I was doing. And that love was a gift that I'll treasure and miss for the rest of my life.
This loss has hit me pretty hard, but right now, I'm trying to start picking up the pieces again.
This will be my last post on blogger. I was already in the process of moving my blog to my new Wordpress site back in May, and I'm going to finish that now. The blogger site used Feedburner to send out emails, but I'll be using a new system with Wordpress -- so if you're reading this via email and would like to continue receiving these posts in email, please visit http://www.recoveringpentecostal.com/blog and subscribe under the new system.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
"You'll understand when you see him."
"But shall we see him?" asked Susan.
"Why Daughter of Eve, that's what I brought you here for. I'm to lead you where you shall meet him," said Mr. Beaver.
"Is - is he a man?" asked Lucy.
"Aslan a man?" said Mr. Beaver sternly. "Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the-sea. Don't you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion - the Lion, the great Lion."
"Ooh!" said Susan, "I'd thought he was a man. Is he - quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion."
"That you will, dearie, and make no mistake," said Mrs. Beaver; "if there's anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they're either braver than most or else just silly."
"Then he isn't safe?" asked Lucy.
"Safe?" said Mr. Beaver; "don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Here are a couple of interesting quotes:
"If biblical literacy is so low at this point in Western history, then the God of the Bible is not the god being worshipped but rather a shallow and incomplete version of him."
In January I started to wonder what it really meant to worship "in spirit and truth." I had been taught that the "spirit" part was all the experiential, emotional stuff... and the "truth" was the special revelation that only Pentecostals possessed. Obviously, I don't believe that anymore! And it something that I've thought about many times over the last couple of months.
We don't need a degree to worship God. I don't think the "truth" is a legalistic nit-picky thing. But at the same time, there's plenty of plain truth in Scripture that shouldn't be ignored or glossed over or modified because it rhymes better or helps someone drive home a point... or contradicts someone's "experience."
I've wondered if the fascination with worship itself (and all the "experiences" that surround it in charismatic and Pentecostal circles) doesn't somehow detract from pursuing the "truth" of the Bible. In other words, experiences are lifted to a higher level than the Bible, so that the Bible is interpretted through the lens of supernatural experience when the opposite really ought to be happening.
Here's another interesting quote:
"In his 2007 book, Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know -- And Doesn’t, Stephen Prothero traces the decline in biblical knowledge not to the cultural upheavals of the late 1960s or the Supreme Court’s prayer rulings of the early 1960s but to the postwar Christian revivals of the 1940s and 1950s."
That's when the great "healing revivals" happened.
"...church members jettisoned content, and the result was a sort of nebulous common faith that President Dwight Eisenhower called “the Judeo-Christian concept.” Eisenhower encapsulated the spirit exactly when he famously said, after meeting with a Soviet official in 1952, “Our form of government has no sense unless it is founded in a deeply felt religious faith, and I don’t care what it is."
To worship "in spirit and truth" certainly involves having a deeply felt religious faith... but it also involves caring deeply about "what it is."
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
I'm a total carb addict, I admit it... I love bread. I've always loved bread. I'm not talking about the sickly-smelling slices of over-processed Wonder Bread... but real bread! Bread with a crust. Bread with substance, texture. The kind of bread you can get from an Italian bakery in the New York area.
Last week, I found an easy bread recipe and decided to give it a try. I thought it would be too much work or too difficult for me to master... but I was pleasantly surprised! You can make a batch of dough and keep it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, so you can make small loaves as needed... and that's what I've been doing. It isn't a lot of work, and the resulting bread looks (and tastes) really great! It also makes my house smell like a bakery :)
It's also been a neat object lesson for me. My "daily bread" is something I look forward to and thoroughly enjoy. It isn't just handed to me -- I do have to put in some prep time and make sure I pay attention while it is in the oven -- but it isn't overly complicated either. A few minutes more or less in the oven doesn't hurt it. And the results... are incredible. Freshly baked bread with butter or jelly is an amazing breakfast!
That's also how I feel about my morning quiet times. I look forward to those times now, although there was a time when I dreaded them... mostly because I thought it would be too difficult for me to do on a consistent basis. I have to put in a little bit of effort and stay focused... but what I get in return is far more than what I put into it!
Saturday, January 31, 2009
That's an awesome statement: they were confident enough that they didn't even have to ask if it was Jesus. They just knew. As illogical and improbable as it might be to consider having breakfast with a someone who had been dead... they could put their questions aside and rest in the confidence of knowing Him!
Over the last few weeks, I've also learned to recognize God in things that I might have questioned (and talked myself out of) in the past. In other words, I'm not questioning my ability to "hear" God nearly as much as I used to. I'm much more confident and bold. I don't find myself asking, "Is this really You, God?" anymore when I just KNOW that He is prompting me to do something.
It's hard to believe that this is the last day of the "21 Days of Consecration." I've learned a lot about God, and surprisingly quite a bit about myself in the process... so even though this special time is coming to a close, I've already committed to making some changes in my life that will be ongoing, and setting aside some other times during the year help me stay on track. I'm not sure how to transition from "21 Days of Consecration" to "A Lifetime of Consecration," but that's really my goal!
Friday, January 30, 2009
But then there was a voice behind her. She shares her pain with this stranger, not knowing who it is... until He calls her by name!
I know that God never leaves us, but there have definitely been times when I felt like I couldn't find Him. I wonder if, like Mary, I was just looking in the wrong place -- looking for what I expected & wanted to see. Perhaps I was looking so hard that I forgot to listen...
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Pilate actually wanted to release Jesus... but he gave in to pressure from the Jewish leaders:
"Then Pilate tried to release him, but the Jewish leaders shouted, “If you release this man, you are no ‘friend of Caesar.’ Anyone who declares himself a king is a rebel against Caesar.” (John 19:12 NLT)
Pilate thought that Jesus should be released... but he chose to save his job and his reputation instead.
I've been just as guilty of giving in to pressure. I don't always stand up for my beliefs -- or even acknowledge them -- when I'm working on consulting projects. I tell myself that I'm just being professional by not contradicting my customers... but really, I'm just more concerned about their opinions than I am about God. (I'm not talking about being offensive or argumenative -- it can be something as simple as just acknowledging belief in God after someone belittles religion in general.)
The Jewish leaders were motivated by a desire to preserve their position -- Pilate was motivated by a desire to preserve his position... and then, standing in stark contrast, we have Jesus' example. If anyone in this story had the right to self-preservation, it was Jesus! But right up until the end, He is making provisions for others (see vs 26-27)... and His death was the ultimate provision for my salvation!
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
"I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me." (John 17:21)
Have you ever prayed for something, a good thing that you sincerely and earnestly wanted, and it seems like the exact OPPOSITE happened? I wonder if Jesus felt that sting in these chapters. John 17 is Jesus' heartfelt prayer for the unity of His followers... and then John 18 is the account of one betrayal after another.
When I think about someone betraying Jesus, I automatically think of Judas -- and that is true, but there are actually a few different betrayals in that chapter. Judas betrayed Jesus out of evil intent. Peter betrayed Him by denying Him. Most of the other Apostles betrayed Him by running away. The crowds who had cheered for Him not long before betrayed Him by joining in and condemning Him.
Jesus' prayer wasn't answered... yet, He didn't get mad and walk away from His mission. He didn't get bitter and change His mind about wanting His followers to live in unity. He didn't get angry and demand explanations. I'm not nearly so gracious when my prayers aren't answered. I'm not nearly so forgiving when someone I trusted betrays me in a painful way.
This week we've been focusing on setting the captives free -- praying for people in our lives who are being held captive to addictions, sickness, bad attitudes, etc. It's easy to pray for folks like that -- but it's also difficult to keep on praying for them when it seems like our prayers are not being answered... when it seems like the exact opposite is happening. How quickly we give up!! Jesus prayed for unity 2000 years ago... and even though His prayer still hasn't been answered, it has never stopped being the cry of His heart. I'm glad He didn't give up on me... and if I'm going to follow in His footsteps, I can't give up on others either.
Monday, January 26, 2009
"I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." (John 16:33 NLT)
I can't imagine what it would have been like to be in the disciple's sandals! Would I have the strength to make it through that kind of harsh treatment and rejection... or would I have compromised so that folks would still like me? Could I really find peace in God when everything around me was in turmoil? How strong is my faith? Could I really hold on -- or would I crumble under the pressure? Under such harsh conditions, could I really stay strong and keep from abandoning my faith?
John 16 opens by saying "I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith." What are "these things"? It seems like He's referring to the encouraging things in the previous chapter, like:
"Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5 NLT)
"I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love." (John 15:9 NLT)
"You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name." (John 15:17 NLT)
If I really, really believed these things, would I be so concerned about what others thought of me? Could I really be afraid to stand up for what I believed in, even if someone thought less of me?
So the key to staying strong is staying in close relationship with Him... even when we can't see Him for a while (see John 16:16).
Sunday, January 25, 2009
The idea that Jesus loves me isn't a "new" concept, but this verse jumped out at me this morning.
I'm living in the south, so I hear a lot of people say that they love me -- and they all mean it, but to different degrees. At one end of the spectrum, there are the folks who use "Love ya!" the way some folks use "See you later!" There's no real relationship required for those kinds of statements... and while those folks might help you with something if it isn't too much trouble, you're not going to have them on your cell phone speed dial.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are the folks who love you enough that they will take your phone call at 3 am or rescue you when your car won't start and you're stranded somewhere even if you got on their nerves earlier that day. They're willing to be inconvenienced for you -- and you'd do the same for them. That kind of love is based on a closer relationship.
There's no closer relationship than the one between Jesus and the Father. There is no love more perfect than that. And yet... that's the way He loves us!
Friday, January 23, 2009
Jesus understood that He had more authority than anyone on the earth... so He served His disciples in the lowest, most menial task! That's amazing to me. In my experience, that's just not "normal"! People who understand that they have great authority usually DON'T spend their time doing menial tasks. They have others do those things for them.
If I had been one of the disciples in this passage, I imagine that I would have been squirming uncomfortably in my seat while my Lord and Master stooped down in front of me to do something that ANYONE could have done. I suppose I would be chastising myself for not making sure that it had been taken care of earlier. And I'm sure the image of Mary washing Jesus' feet with the expensive perfume would still be fresh on my mind.
I wonder when it would have occurred to me that this act wasn't about Jesus drawing attention to my dirty feet, or elevating foot washing to the level of tradition or sacrament, but demonstrating His love for me.
"[Jesus] had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end." (v 1b)
How can I ever love others the way Jesus loves me?
Thursday, January 22, 2009
I'm drawn to that verse because even though I want God's approval, I still struggle with wanting approval from people... that's actually been one of the recurring "themes" for me during this 21 Days of Consecration. I want to do God's will, but I recognize that even if I start something with the right heart, it's easy for me to turn it into a dry routine or performance for others.
That's why the story of Mary anointing Jesus' feet with costly perfume is a little difficult for me. I usually come away from that story feeling a little guilty, because it's always held up as an example of extravagant worship, an encouragement to do bold things in worship without worrying about the opinions of others. I'm just not very "expressive" in worship. I can completely relate to her desire to make a great sacrifice for God... but ironically, I wonder sometimes if my sacrifices measure up in the eyes of others. So it is difficult for me to look to Mary as a role model.
But this morning I noticed another aspect of this chapter that just hadn't jumped out at me before. It wasn't Mary's expression of worship that most angered the Jewish leaders -- they probably couldn't care less. The one who REALLY got under their skin was Lazarus!
"The large crowd of the Jews then learned that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead. But the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death also; because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and were believing in Jesus." (John 12:9-11 NASB)
What an awesome testimony... to have a life so changed by Jesus that it would make others want to believe in Him! Lazarus couldn't raise himself from the dead, so this wasn't about a performance for him. It was about being a living testimony of God's power -- a life so radically changed that no one but God could get the credit.
That's what I want: a testimony based not on what I do, but on the transformation that only God could do in my life!
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Martha & Mary must have talked about it many times in the days since Lazarus' death. "If only Jesus had been here..." Both sisters say the same thing when they finally see Jesus (vs 21 & 32).
But it is Martha, so often put down for being the task-oriented / non-worshipful sister, who makes the amazing statement of faith in this story:
"But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask." (John 11:22 NLT)
Martha is hurting. She's been through a lot. She doesn't know what Jesus is planning to do. Yet, her faith is still solid! I can identify a lot with Martha's personality -- someone who loves to serve, but sometimes misses out on special moments with God because of the distractions of being task-oriented. I've often thought that I needed to become more like Mary... but perhaps being a Martha has some redeeming qualities after all :)
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
When I first read The Shack, I had a hard time with some of the imagery the author used, but I was intrigued by the account of the main character's encounter with God. I came away with one overwhelming question: Could anyone really know God that deeply, that personally, that intimately? Was that even remotely possible?
John 10:14-15 seems to answer with a resounding "Yes!" We can be known by God and know Him... just as the Father knows Jesus and Jesus knows the Father. And just how close is that relationship? Later on in the chapter, we get a pretty clear answer:
"I and the Father are one." (John 10:30 NASB)
This is one of those passages that seems a little too good to be true!
Here in the US we're celebrating inauguration day. Security is tight in Washington DC. There are severe restrictions on what folks can bring with them -- no back packs, water bottles, etc. There are also lots of barricades to control where they can and cannot go. As I write this, I'm looking at images of thousands and thousands of folks who have traveled untold miles to endure extreme cold... and the vast majority of them won't even catch a glimpse of (soon-to-be) President Barack Obama. Folks will be forced to keep their distance. Some will be disappointed, I'm sure... but most just wanted to be close, just to say that they were there.
And yet... the God of the universe invites everyone to come to Him... and the only barricades in the way are those of our own making. He knows that we will be carrying some things with us, but that doesn't matter to Him. He'll deal with it soon enough. And He invites us not only to come and see Him, but to come and know Him!
Monday, January 19, 2009
There are some things in this story that don't make a lot of logical sense to me... Why did Jesus make mud with His spit and put it on the guy's eyes? Why did He send the blind man specifically to the pool of Siloam to wash?
But the one thing that makes perfect sense to me is how the formerly-blind-beggar isn't intimidated by the questions he gets asked! It's obvious that he doesn't know a lot about Jesus at first, but he isn't afraid to tell what he does know. Even in the face of the intimidating Pharisees, he stands his ground and defends Jesus.
This man was healed of his blindness, and obviously that had a huge impact on him -- but I can't help thinking that there must have been something else involved.
In John 4, Jesus healed the royal official's son, but he did it from a great distance. He certainly didn't touch the man's son, and there's no indication that he touched the man either.
At the pool of Bethesda in John 5, Jesus told the sick man to get up and take up his pallet... but it doesn't say that He touched the man in any way.
Yet here in John 9, there's no way Jesus could have applied the mud without physically touching the man. I can't help but wonder if that man, still blind, "saw" something through that touch that no one else could see.
When the formerly-blind man meets Jesus again, his heart is clearly open to Him. In his simple faith, He accepts what Jesus says about Himself and worships Him. What an awesome picture!
I want to have that kind of openness to God!
Sunday, January 18, 2009
It's getting harder and harder for me to choose what to write about from these chapters in John... but today, this particular passage really resonated. I knew that Pastor Nathan would be preaching about Breaking Yokes this morning, and it's amazing how even in my quiet times yesterday, God was starting to shift my focus from Alignment to Breaking Yokes.
I'm overweight -- have been for many years. Other than the extra weight, I've been pretty healthy, so I haven't really considered it an urgent problem -- or really a problem at all. I wasn't trying to impress anyone. I've tried to get in shape a few times, with limited success. I just wasn't very motivated. I'd make excuses for myself and shrug it off. I'd tell myself that I needed the late-night snacks so I could keep my concentration -- I'd tell myself that I DESERVED a treat -- etc.
For the first 7 days of this "Journey of Consecration," I was on a water fast. I didn't think I would make it, but I really felt it was something God wanted me to do. One of the things I think God showed me during that time was that my over-eating and making wrong food choices wasn't just a personal preference or an annoying habit like cracking my knuckles... it was a sin! And I had just proven to myself that if I could go days without eating ANYTHING, I could skip the sweets and other snacks that really aren't good for me while I'm eating healthy food in healthy portions.
I also realized that my eating habits and my weight is really a yoke in my life -- it prevents me from doing everything God wants me to do. It pulls me in a direction that isn't in alignment with Him.
I didn't know the truth about my eating habits. But now that I know the truth, I can be set free of that yoke. It won't happen overnight... but I know that the changes God has been making inside of me will show up on the outside if I'll "continue in His Word!"
Saturday, January 17, 2009
People see what they want to see... and sometimes it seems like what folks condemn in one person, they celebrate in another. Jesus ran into this with the crowds in John 7. They were critical of Him for breaking the Law by healing on the Sabbath, yet the most observant Jews would circumcise on the Sabbath in order to keep the Law. If you like someone, they can do nothing wrong. If you don't like someone, they can do nothing right!
Jesus responded by challenging the people to look beneath the surface -- or as the NASB puts it, don't judge by appearances. Looking beneath the surface takes more time than making a judgment based on appearances. It requires more energy. And worst of all: you risk finding out that you were wrong! I think that's why a legalistic approach is so "easy" -- it doesn't require a lot of time or thought. It can be done from a safe distance. And if you want others to see you as good and holy and righteous, it is not difficult to keep up appearances when others are judging you on surface things.
There are actually multiple examples of folks making surface judgments in this passage. Jesus' critics did it many times. They judged Him for healing on the Sabbath (v21-23). They questioned His authority to teachv(v15). They didn't really know where He was from (v41-42). But Jesus' supporters did it as well:
"But no one had the courage to speak favorably about him in public, for they were afraid of getting in trouble with the Jewish leaders." (John 7:13 NLT)
They were afraid of the Jewish leaders because they made a surface judgment -- they decided that the Jewish leaders were more important than Jesus, so they didn't speak up for Him.
I know that I make surface judgments all the time -- taking things at face value rather than investigating more closely. I also know that I do some things so that others will make certain (positive) surface judgments about me. God has challenged me on both of those things.
This week has been all about going beneath the surface for me. I've asked God to search my heart (Ps 139:23-24), and I've been a little embarrassed by some of the things that He has shown me. I've realized that there are some things that I would call sin that are not sin... and there are things I need to recognize as sin, even though I've used all sorts of excuses to justify it to myself. I've learned that sometimes my wrong attitudes show up in the things I do... and other times, they show up in things I avoid.
It's been painful to go beneath the surface... but at the same time, I'm grateful that God is allowing me to see these things and showing me the way to get back into alignment with Him!
Friday, January 16, 2009
John 6 contains Jesus' famous declaration that He is the bread of life. I have definitely found that to be true during this fast. I know that He is sustaining me through this time in ways that I never anticipated.
I don't have the time to share everything that jumped out at me from John 6, but here is one spot that got me thinking:
"Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, 'This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.' So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone." (John 6:14-15 from the NASB)
The Message puts it this way:
"The people realized that God was at work among them in what Jesus had just done. They said, 'This is the Prophet for sure, God's Prophet right here in Galilee!' Jesus saw that in their enthusiasm, they were about to grab him and make him king, so he slipped off and went back up the mountain to be by himself." (John 6:14-15 from The Message)
I see two different lessons for me in these verses... one from the people, the other from Jesus.
The people saw that God was doing something extraordinary through Jesus -- this was a valid observation. They weren't opposed to Him; in fact, they were excited about Him and ready to make Him their king. They were probably very sincere about it. But even though they recognized God at work, their response was not correct. They didn't really know who Jesus was, they didn't see Him as the Messiah, so based on their limited understanding and misguided enthusiasm, they tried to make Jesus something that He wasn't.
People are still doing that today. Sincerity plus enthusiasm does not necessarily equal truth.
Jesus knew what the people were going to do, so He left.
I wonder if that's why so many times, Pentecostal / charismatic revivals felt pretty "dead" to me after they had been going on for a while... Jesus wasn't there anymore... just a thought.
There's a second lesson I draw from Jesus' response...
If someone wanted to honor me in some lavish way, I think I'd just automatically assume it was a blessing from God! I seek God's direction much more in difficult times than I do in times of apparent blessing.
One of the areas where I struggle is in seeking approval from others. I want God's approval, but many times I interpret the approval of others -- especially those in ministry -- as God's approval. Sometimes the two do co-incide... but if I value the approval of my pastors more than I value the approval of God, my heart is wrong even if I'm doing the "right" things.
If Jesus is truly my bread of life -- everything that I need -- then everything else has to be secondary. If He can truly satisfy my hunger, then I shouldn't be craving approval from anyone else.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Jesus comes to the pool of Bethesda, where there are crowds of people with all kinds of diseases and disabilities. He singles out one man and asks him if he wants to get well. The man replies with a discouraged excuse -- he doesn't have anyone to help him get into the water when it is stirred up, so someone else gets there before him and gets healed. But then Jesus heals him.
It's Jesus' question that always gets to me. Here's how it reads in the Amplified version:
When Jesus noticed him lying there [helpless], knowing that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, Do you want to become well? [Are you really in earnest about getting well?] (John 5:6)
This past week has been about finding areas where I've been "out of alignment" -- areas where I am not well. Some of those areas are things I hadn't seen before. Others are things that I've definitely known about for many many years, but haven't been able to change on my own. And when you've been frustrated because you've tried and haven't been able to change, you start to make excuses about why you can't change.
So this morning, I find myself asking, "Am I really in earnest about getting well?" Or, to paraphrase a bit: "How serious am I about getting 'in line' with God?"
Have I been focused on the pool when I should have been focused on Jesus?
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
In John 4:6 it says that Jesus was weary from his journey.
Pastor Nathan has been calling this time a "journey of consecration" in his blog. I like thinking of it as a journey rather than as a sacrifice or ritual... the idea that we're going somewhere is very appealing to me, and that has really been helping me keep my focus in the right place. Ritual is all about what you're doing; but the journey is all about the destination.
Yesterday, I could definitely feel my energy level go way down. On top of that, I didn't sleep very well the night before... so I've definitely been feeling weary. I even went to bed a few hours early last night. But I felt kinda guilty -- some of the old "Word of Faith" teachings and legalistic attitudes were trying to surface... stuff like, "If this is really a God thing, and if you were doing it right, you wouldn't be so tired, you wouldn't be struggling, you wouldn't have headaches..."
So that verse about Jesus being weary from His journey really jumped out at me this morning. If Jesus could be weary, then it isn't a sin to be weary.
The other part that caught my attention is the part where Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well. I guess that story always grabs my attention... but today, the part that I'm really thinking about is where Jesus says in verse 24 that "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."
When I was Oneness Pentecostal, we believed that we were the only ones who had the truth -- so we were the only ones who could worship in spirit and truth. Even when I moved into some more "mainstream" Pentecostal churches, we believed that you couldn't really "worship in spirit" without tongues or running around the sanctuary or falling down etc... in other words, if the worship experience wasn't extremely emotional, you didn't really "worship in spirit."
So if we must worship in spirit and truth, what does it really mean?
I have a few ideas, but I think I'll focus on that a bit in my "down times" today...
Monday, January 12, 2009
I could be wrong, but I don't think that Jesus had a problem with people selling doves or other animals in and of itself; it was WHERE they were doing it that was inappropriate. They were in a place that should have been set apart for God and they were using it for personal gain.
I think that part jumped out at me because the messages these last two weeks have been about consecration... setting aside things and times for God. These three weeks aren't just about giving something up, but about purposefully seeking God and dedicating that extra time to Him.
That's going to be a real challenge for me because I'm a workaholic & probably could be categorized as ADD... and I struggle just to stay focused in my quiet times! It seems like there are always more demands on my time than time to meet the demands. A lot of that is my fault for over-committing myself... and that's something I need to watch. If I'm going to truly "consecrate" this time to God, I need to protect it. I can't fill it up with other stuff. I can't take something that was set aside for God and then use it for personal reasons. Otherwise... I'm just another money changer in the temple.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Over the last week, I've been thinking about it quite a bit. I've struggled with how to respond to that sort of invitation. On the one hand, that call resonates with me because I want to seriously seek God for myself, and making the commitment to sacrifice some things I enjoy seems like a small price. On the other hand, I recognize that I still have legalistic tendencies and I could very easily turn this into a legalistic practice. I don't want to do it for the wrong reasons... or try to do more than God is really calling me to do because I feel guilty or less spiritual than those who are being called to do more. I want my heart to be right!
Over the last few weeks, "alignment" seems to be a recurring theme in my quiet times too -- tho not necessarily related to fasting. I want to serve God, but I also want my motivation for serving Him to be correct... and I've been asking Him to help me identify and deal with the junk in my life that gets in the way. Many times, I think I start out on the right foot and with the right heart, but over time my motivations drift. It becomes more about obligation or pride or performance. Before I know it something that was meaningful and special and all about responding to God out of love ... it fades into routine--or worse--performance.
Understanding that there is a problem is one thing... understanding how to make it right is another thing entirely.
OR maybe it isn't about me making things right. Maybe it's about me surrendering my desire to make myself right and recognizing that I need God do something in me... and reaching out for Him...